NHL on NBCSN: Blackhawks visit Tampa to take on first-place Bolts

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Friday night’s matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Jeremy Colliton era has gotten off to a mediocre start in Chicago, as they’re 2-3-2 in his first seven contests as an head coach. The ‘Hawks are coming off a 4-2 loss to the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night. They’ll finish their weekend off in Florida on Saturday night.

“We played hard,” Colliton said after the loss. “I thought the effort was there, and we looked like we were going to climb back into it multiple times during the game. Just some self-inflicted wounds there that made it difficult against a Cup winner… we’re good enough. We have a good enough team. We’ve just got to tighten up a little bit. These are things we can control.”

Colliton has been able to rely on his top offensive performers, but the supporting cast has struggled to produce. Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have combined for six goals and 16 points, while the rest of the team has six goals and 20 points during the same stretch.

Toews, in particular, has had a nice rebound season. The 30-year-old has 10 goals and nine assists through 22 games this season. That puts him on pace to score 37 goals in 2018-19. He’s scored 20 and 21 goals over the last two seasons.

“I’ve been through some droughts early in the year the last few years, and it’s not that it hurts your confidence so much as you go into games a little too calculated, instead of just going out there and playing… that’s why this is the top level of the game,” said Toews. “It’s never supposed to be easy, and there’s always something to learn and some way you can grow. For me, it’s learning from trends and patterns that emerge in your game and saying, ‘Hey, I’ve got to correct this or improve that.’ You’re always looking for ways to get better, and to get that good feeling in your game.”

The Lightning are currently in top spot in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference with a record of 15-6-1. Despite not having Andrei Vasilevskiy in their lineup, the Bolts have won three of their last four games with Louis Domingue between the pipes.

“He’s winning hockey games for us,” head coach Jon Cooper said of Domingue. “You’ve got to feel for him at the end there (on Wednesday), we give up that power-play goal because a two looks a lot better than a three. But he’s given us a chance to win games and he’s played well.”

Tampa is coming off a 7-3 win over the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night. In that game, Steven Stamkos managed to pick up a goal and three assists. It was an encouraging performance from a player that had just two assists in five games. The 28-year-old has seven goals and 14 assists in 22 games this season.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

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